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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Everything we know after the new Nintendo Direct

Simon Belmont, King K. Rool, Dark Samus, a ton of stages and music and more.

SmashBros

Brace yourselves.

Nintendo

Every single Smash Bros. character is headed to the Nintendo Switch with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, coming to stores Dec. 7. After Nintendo revealed a ton of details about the new Smash Bros. entry during E3, a Nintendo Direct this week, hosted by series director Masahiro Sakurai, gave us even more specifics about what's new with Ultimate.

So far, it looks like Smash Bros. Ultimate is living up to its name. The game features every single Smash Bros. character yet (and new additions such as Castlevania's Simon Belmont and Splatoon's Inklings), more than 100 stages, more than 800 music tracks and countless other additions to the long-running franchise. 

Here's everything we know so far about what could be the single-most anticipated game for the Nintendo Switch, from gameplay tweaks to new modes making their Smash Bros. debut.

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What is Smash Bros. and why is everyone freaking out?

Since the Nintendo 64, every Nintendo console has featured a game in which beloved (or obscure) Nintendo characters beat each other senseless. In what ended up being one of the smartest moves in its game development history, Nintendo's decision to make a less-technical fighting game resulted in tens of millions of sales. Seriously, the Wii Smash Bros. alone sold more than 13 million copies.

Whether fostering a competitive community or highlighting characters beyond Nintendo's familiar stable (Solid Snake, we're looking at you), Smash Bros. has been a series that both casual gamers and the Nintendo faithful can both enjoy. Particularly since the Gamecube's Super Smash Bros. Melee, the series has taken a number of left turns and included tons of unexpected characters, creating even more excitement.

Even when fans disagree with some of the decisions made by Sakurai, they're always back for more the moment he announces a new Smash Bros. And given the success of the Switch among both crowds, it's easy to see why the latest entry has already sparked so much excitement.

When is Smash Bros. Ultimate coming out?

The initial trailer couldn't have been any more clear about when Nintendo will launch the latest title in the series to emerge. And at E3, Nintendo delivered: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be in stores Dec. 7.

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Nintendo

Which playable characters will be in Smash Bros. Ultimate?

The best answer to that question is simple: all of them. At E3, Sakurai revealed that every single fighter who's been in a Super Smash Bros. game will be featured in Smash Bros. Ultimate. That includes DLC fighters such as Bayonetta, Cloud and Ryu, along with returning favorites like Solid Snake.

But those characters aren't coming to Smash Bros. Ultimate unchanged. Basically every character is getting major or minor tweaks to their move sets, attributes or play styles. Here are some, but not all of the changes Sakurai outlined during the E3 event:

  • Mario doesn't have new moves based on Super Mario Odyssey, but he will be wearing Cappy, who can be seen in select special moves.
  • Link is based on his Breath of the Wild iteration, with his special moves and weaponry updated to reflect the Switch entry.
  • Captain Falcon's Falcon Punch and other strong attacks will trigger a slow-motion effect in 1 vs. 1 fights.
  • Zelda's new look is based on the 3DS title A Link Between Worlds, with a new Final Smash to boot.
  • Final Smashes on the whole have been tweaked to be speedier and more cinematic.
  • Cloud's Limit Break, Robin's limited-use attacks and other character-specific abilities will have distinct displays at the bottom of the screen for easier insights about their status.
  • Pokemon Trainer can switch between Pokemon at will, even midair, with an alternate costume for a female trainer.
  • And clone characters, often a point of contention among Smash Bros. fans, have been turned into Echo Fighters. Characters such as Lucina and newcomer Daisy are in the game, but treated as variants of preexisting characters.

That's cool, but are any new characters joining the fight?

What, you're not happy with dozens of fighters?

During the most recent Direct, Nintendo revealed its latest third-party character addition: Simon Belmont from the Castlevania series. As you'd expect, Simon brings along his whip and a number of monster-slaying tools to the fight, and his Dracula's Castle-themed level looks particularly promising.

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Simon Belmont, the vampire hunter of Castlevania, is joining the roster of Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

During that same direct, Nintendo elaborated on Echo characters. Echo characters are tweaked versions of characters that aren't quite distinct enough to be given their own separate move set. 

For example, Daisy is an Echo version of Peach. But with newly revealed Echo characters such as Dark Samus, Chrom and Richter, it looks like Nintendo's doing more than just swapping out characters skins and tweaking animations. Dark Samus in particular looks distinct, and Chrom appears to borrow moves from multiple Fire Emblem characters.

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Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

And no, we didn't forget about King K. Rool. After years of fan requests, Donkey Kong's antagonist is at long last making his Smash debut.

Splatoon's Inklings are also making their Smash Bros. debut in Ultimate. As you might expect, the Inklings rely on their ink weaponry to boost the amount of damage opponents take from attacks. The Splat Roller, Spalt Bomb and Splattershot will all be either special or smash attacks, with the added quirk of ink depletion. Said attacks use up the Inkling's ink reserves, which must be refilled while they're shielded. And yes, the Inklings have a ton of outfits.

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Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Then, at the end of its E3 event, Nintendo revealed a character Smash Bros. fans have been asking for since the very first entry: Ridley. Samus Aran's giant nemesis has often been said to be too big to be featured as a playable character in the past, but why should size matter when you're dealing with the biggest Smash Bros. ever? Ridley is as powerful as you'd expect, with one special move in particular having a sweet spot that looks like it deals as much damage as the vaunted Falcon Punch.

What's Smash Bros. Ultimate's stage situation?

Like its gigantic roster, Ultimate's bounty of stages encapsulates the entire franchise, with some new additions. The previous entry in the series split exclusive stages between the Wii U and 3DS versions, but as is the theme with Ultimate, they're all being brought into the fold. Right now, the total number of stages is a whopping 103.

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Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

But, according to Sakurai, if you take into account all of the variations of stages and treat them distinctly, there are more than 300 stages in Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Every stage will get an Omega form, which simplifies the stage and eliminate hazards and interactive elements to be more friendly to players who want to minimize random elements. Omega forms were first included in Smash Bros. on the Wii U and 3Ds, and stages in Ultimate will get Omega forms that emulate both the flat Final Destination stage, and the platform-filled Battlefield stage. And independent of those two toggles, there's a separate options to just eliminate a stage's hazards.

During the most recent Direct, Sakurai showcased a brand-new stage feature, that allows players to select two stages before a match. The the middle of the fight, the stage will morph from one to the next, requiring you to adapt to the new environment.

And thankfully, this wild number of stages doesn't require any unlocking: Every single stage and variant will be available from the moment you boot up the game. 

What music will be available while I'm pummeling my friends?

One of the Smash Bros. series' most underrated elements is its soundtrack. Previous entires have contained a nearly endless supply of beloved themes songs, both original and rerecorded, from series represented in the game. A quick glance at the gigantic list of tracks included in Smash Bros. Wii U reveals the sheer breadth of the music included in the franchise.

During the August Direct, Sakurai revealed more details about Smash's staggering soundtrack. We'll let the number of tracks speak for itself:

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Whoa.

Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Songs from across Nintendo's entire history, and other non-Nintendo games with Smash participants such as Mega Man and Castlevania will all have exhaustive song libraries to pull from. And for the first time, songs aren't tied to stages. Instead, stages will default to selecting tracks based on the franchise the stage is associated with. And if you want to make your own custom soundtrack or listen to F-Zero while on a Kirby stage, no worries. That's all customizable.

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Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

You can already dive into remastered tracks included in Smash Bros. Ultimate, starting with the main theme, via the official Smash Bros. site. We don't have a full track list yet, and given how many songs are included, that's a post on its own once we do.

What new modes are coming to Smash Bros. Ultimate?

Since they've been in every Smash Bros. entry, it's fair to assume some version of Target Smash will appear, but beyond that everything is up for grabs. At E3 2018, Nintendo didn't reveal any more details about specific modes, instead focusing more on characters and stages.

But during the August Direct, we learned a lot more about specific Smash modes. 

  • Eight-player fights are returning, and they're now compatible with every map.
  • Squad Strike is a 3 vs. 3 or 5 vs. 5 team fight where you pick a slate of characters and go through each in a series of battles.
  • Tournament mode is back, with the game automatically generating brackets after you select the player count.
  • Smashdown, a new mode, has players go through the entire roster in a series of fights. Once a character is used once, they can't be used again.
  • Training mode is getting a significant revamp, with its own stage focused entirely on analyzing data about characters, from the reach of specific attacks to the launch trajectories at low, medium and high damage percentages.

Toward the end of the Direct,  mysterious option on Smash Bros. Ultimate's main screen stoked fan speculation about whether Smash would get a fresh story mode, especially given the lavish attention paid to many of the teaser trailers.

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What could it be!?

Nintendo/Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

The series' Wii entry, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, featured a surprisingly lengthy story-driven adventure mode titled "The Subspace Emissary." That mode created a narrative justification, however forced and muddled, for characters across so many franchises to be joining together or fighting against each other. Subspace Emissary even featured cutscenes between its fights, providing the franchise's first, and so far only, real storyline. Could a similar mode be making a comeback on the Switch?

Yep, that happened.

Nintendo/GIF by Morgan Little/CNET

As for the weirdly satisfying 3DS-exclusive Smash Run and infuriating Wii U-exclusive Smash Tour, their continuation is up for grabs. Thankfully, given the Switch's dual functionality, there won't be features or maps split between console and handheld versions of the game. Given that it's a series mainstay, Classic Mode and its beloved (but still nonplayable) final boss Master Hand will likely make a return.

Will Smash Bros. have decent online play?

There's no telling until the game is in the wild, but there's an expectation given that Nintendo is about to charge for online multiplayer for the first time that we'll see an improvement to Smash's online options. Nintendo didn't mention anything about online during its E3 press conference, so we're still in the dark about specifics, but we do know that the Switch's online service will launch in late September.

Both the Wii and Wii U versions were hampered by rocky netcode, and the most recent entries limited online gameplay between strict casual and competitive buckets. But recent multiplayer-focused titles like Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon 2 have proven to be perfectly fine on the Switch, so there's plenty of reason to hope for the same with Smash Bros.

Originally published May 31.
Update, Aug. 10: Added details from latest Nintendo Direct.

E3 2018: Everything you need to know

E3 2018 coverage at CNET: All of our E3 2018 coverage in one place.

E3 2018 coverage at GameSpot: Wall-to-wall coverage of the show from our sister site, GameSpot.

E3 2018 coverage at Giant Bomb: Still more commentary and news from E3, from our colleagues at Giant Bomb.